Meet Aero, Huntington Beach Police’s newest K9

Huntington Beach Police Officer Mitch Martinez poses with his new partner, K9 Aero.
(Courtesy of the Huntington Beach Police Department)

The newest member of the Huntington Beach Police Department is Aero, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois who was renamed in memory of an officer who died in a helicopter crash earlier this year.

The young dog was responding to its new name as of Wednesday but didn’t immediately recognize it when he and his handler, Mitch Martinez, met about six weeks ago. Meanwhile, the officer had to learn how to give commands in German.

Aero was born in Germany, and his name was originally Sisco. Members of of the department, including Martinez, and the Huntington Beach Police and Community Foundation made the decision to change it in memory of Office Nicholas Vella, a member of the department’s Air Support Bureau who died when a Huntington Beach police helicopter spiraled into waters off the coast of Newport Beach.

Huntington Beach Police Officer Mitch Martinez poses with his new partner, K9 Aero.
(Courtesy of the Huntington Beach Police Department)

Aero specializes in tracking human scent and is far more capable than humans of finding hidden people or items they might have left behind, Martinez said.

Martinez and Aero have a weekly four-hour training session and are constantly brushing up on their skills while they are on patrol, Martinez said. The officer plans on eventually preparing his partner to become certified in narcotics detection.

When Aero isn’t busy with police work, “he’s just a normal dog,” Martinez said. He gets along well with the officer’s family, loves to play fetch and is constantly pestering Martinez’s children, “trying to trick them into throwing the ball for him.”

“After a really stressful call, he’s there, wagging his tail and happy to see you,” Martinez said. “That can really help handlers decompress.”

Aero is now one of two dogs in HBPD’s K9 unit, joining K9 Knight. The department was working to acquire and train one more as of Wednesday.

Aero’s acquisition and training was paid for by a private donor. All of the costs for the department’s K9 unit are funded by donations arranged by the Huntington Beach Police and Community Foundation, Martinez and HBPD spokeswoman Jessica Cuchilla said.

“Equipment for the K9 unit can be costly,” Martinez said. “But we’re fortunate to be able to have some of the best training available in Orange County and the best gear.”

Anyone interested in meeting the department’s pups will have a chance to do so on Saturday, Dec. 3. Aero, Martinez, Knight and his handler, Officer Avalos, will demonstrate their skills at the department’s open house at the Huntington Beach Civic Center.

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